This panel will discuss how land access in urban areas is being changed by a growing middle-class and its socio-spatial impacts, dealing with continuities in urban governance, but also disruptions in balances that have been achieved between elites and the lower income majority since Independence.
Since Independence, cities and towns have flourished in Sub-Saharan Africa, but usually through the expansion of peri-urban areas and with the majority of residents being lower income. However, the recent economic expansion of the region has promoted the growth of a middle-class, which is nevertheless still ill defined. Simultaneously, soon the majority of urban populations will have been born in urban areas, but most countries still do not have urban policies or coherent strategies within their often-limited resources for engaging with these dynamics. This panel will discuss how urban areas are most recently being transformed by a growing middle-class - and include discussions on how the middle class can be defined, identified, measured and its urban impact ascertained. It thus deals with continuities in the nature of urbanity and urban land governance, but also disruptions of forms of balance which have been achieved between elites and the lower income majority since Independence, concerning governance of urban land in particular. Recent research has shown that there seems to be clear evidence of such continuities and disruptions and that urban space is thus increasingly contested, with concepts such as the 'right to the city', as conceived by Lefebvre, far from being achieved - indeed potentially being hijacked by the middle class. As the conference theme suggests, the panel will examine what forces are driving these processes? Has a tipping point emerged in recent years? If so, what are the intended and unintended consequences of this pivotal temporal moment for African urban space?